Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - Submitted by Steven White
AIHL season 2017 may be a month away but the defending Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) champions, the Newcastle North Stars are already hard at it – and none more so, than their Head Coach Andrew Petrie.
According to Petrie, he’s has been spending the off season “renovating, spending time with the family and then renovating some more,” but also scouring talent for the 2017 charge to the Goodall Cup AIHL Finals.
“We worked hard in our recruitment this off-season and this is an area that Garry Doré (North Stars’ President) has been consistently successful,” said Petrie.
“Garry, (Assistant Coach) Joey Theriault and I are all on the same page as to what we need on our roster. We are extremely happy with the incoming group of players.”
While the Frij, as he is known across the AIHL community, stayed mum on this year’s import players there has been a change of note in goal. Dayne Davis, the North Stars’ Goaltender and 2016 AIHL Finals MVP, has departed and into the fold steps Charlie Smart. Smart manned the pipes last year for the Sydney Ice Dogs, and will form new goal keeping tandem with the returning Nick Mizen.
“I’m really excited about bringing Charlie to the club and I think having him and last year’s stand-out, Nick Mizen, working in tandem gives us two of the very brightest young goalie talents in the country to work with,” said Petrie.
“Having these two competing with each other for the next game’s starting spot will elevate our practice intensity and bring a true sense of competition to a very important position on our team. Competition for spots is crucial to building and maintaining a championship culture.”
After winning the Goodall Cup in 2016 for a sixth time, the North Stars became the most successful AIHL team in history and current back- to- back Goodall Cup Champions. So is there pressure on the North Stars to smite the Melbourne Ice and complete another “three-peat” (Melbourne Ice were Goodall Cup Champions 2010, 2011 & 2012) this year?
Photo: Mark Bradford
“If you measure success in terms of Championship wins, then Newcastle is definitely the leading light in this regard, said Petrie.
However, I like to measure success in a number of different ways. ,” said Petrie. “Last year Mat Lindsay made his first National Men’s squad and did a great job overseas, alongside Bert Malloy. This season those two are returning and we have another three or four North Stars guys joining them on this year’s National team heading to Romania, including Newcastle local, Pat Nadin, who has flourished with us in the last two seasons. JFK gets a chance after becoming a citizen and Beau Taylor is going for the first time despite being of National Team calibre for a very long time. Throw Charlie Smart into the mix and that’s six 2017 North Stars on the team.”
“The challenge we set ourselves here at Newcastle is to be better every year. If we achieve that, then the trophies will take care of themselves,” he added.
Across the benches
The last two seasons have seen the North Stars develop a spicy rivalry with the CBR Brave. Ahead of the 2017 season, the Brave upped the ante by signing the King of the North, former North Star and AIHL legend Rob Starke, to suit up behind the bench as Head Coach.
“I’m genuinely happy for him, Nicole and the boys,” said Petrie.
“They’ve found a situation that ticks a lot of boxes for them as a family and as Rob told me, being able to coach at the AIHL level is a bonus for him. There is no doubt he is a quality guy who left an impressive legacy as a player. If he’s even half as successful as a coach then it’s a good thing for CBR and for the league. I’m sure the Newcastle v CBR rivalry is cemented and will continue to be very healthy, regardless of who stands behind the respective benches as coach.”
The North Stars also have a new look this season with a brand new jersey design released, similar to European playing uniforms.
“I think Greg Rickford has done a fantastic job with the design and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the ice,” said Petrie.
Staying away from predictions for the AIHL season, the Frij did guarantee one thing. “Collective and unrelenting commitment to the jersey,” said Petrie. “I’m just looking forward to that opening puck drop.”